Can photojournalists create authentic commercial shots? Getty thinks so

getty verbatim brent stirton
Brent Stirton / Verbatim
Photojournalism is shifting — and as editorial budgets shrink, a group comprised of Getty Images photographers is taking a new approach. This week, Getty Images subsidiary Verbatim opened its doors as a commercial photography agency staffed entirely by photojournalists.

Verbatim isn’t pretending to offer photojournalism under a commercial disguise, but is instead aiming to meet companies’ growing demand for authentic images that look less like cold catalog shots by using photographers who have a penchant for storytelling.

A portion of Verbatium’s profits will be set aside to fund the photographers’ personal editorial projects, both to help the photographers to retain their photojournalistic edge, and as a new way to fund editorial projects amid shrinking budgets.

Verbatim is led by Aidan Sullivan, the former head of the Getty Images Reportage department, and encompasses much of the department’s talent as well, including Pulitzer Prize winner Lynsey Addario as well as names like Tom Stoddart and Jonathan Torgovnik.

Getty says that its dedication to journalistic content remains unchanged — the Reportage division will continue to operate through syndication and archival distribution.

“The potential of imagery to provoke conversation and drive change is unquestionable; it is what drives me every day as a photojournalist,” Addario said. “Photography has the ability to get under people’s skin so that they think about things they usually wouldn’t think about. Through Verbatim, brands will have the opportunity to collaborate on important projects, and highlight relevant social and cultural issues.”

Sullivan, now the CEO of Verbatim, says that the new subsidiary addresses a need for advertisers to connect with the younger generation by using images with a story and a message. He added that most of the photojournalists on the team already have commercial experience under their belts from companies looking to lend that storytelling style to the brand’s images.

“Imagery has become the new language because there are no language barriers,” Sullivan told the marketing and media focused publication, Campaign. “An image is an image is an image. If it’s a verbatim, it’s exactly what you started out with.”

According to the new imaging company’s website, Verbatim uses a network of over 700 photographers and videographers in 70 different countries, who have already used their journalism experience to tell authentic stories for several brands, including Coca-Cola, Adidas, Ford, and Sears.

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